Season Must Resume – Whenever That May Be
Everything moved so fast – and now it will move depressingly slowly.
Twelve days ago, I travelled back from the joint appearance by Carl Ikeme and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake at Telford Wolves Supporters Club with two fans excited about their impending trip to Athens.
At the following day’s home game against Brighton, I met up with or bumped into three others, separately, who were flying to the game against Olympiacos.
Not a word was uttered between us about them being unable to attend. Postponements and behind-closed-doors matches were barely on the radar.
My questions were focused only on how anxious they were about the possibility of coming into contact on their travels with virus victims and getting home in the event of an infection. One was aghast at the thought that over-70s might be excluded from matches before the end of the season but that was as grave as the threat to the sport then seemed.
Five and a half days later, the other side of the Manchester City v Real Madrid postponement and the positive tests on Mikel Arteta and Callum Hudson-Odoi, the Premier League and EFL ground to a halt. Now the Euros have gone as well.
Let’s not kid ourselves…..the domestic restart date of April 3 can quickly be written off as fanciful. This pandemic is no fleeting inconvenience.
What are your hopes and fears for the fixture list? Would you settle for a mid-June return of club football, for example? I would.
It is imperative that the 2019-20 season is played to a conclusion, though, whenever that is possible.
Scrapping the campaign as null and void – yes, thank-you, Ms Brady, but you may just have had a vested interest in suggesting that – would be an attack on the integrity of the game.
If there is merit in the view of some experts that Coronavirus could just become a longer-term part of our vocabulary, might we not be back at a similar point to this in future winters?
Where does the game turn and stand then if the labours of seven months can be simply washed away like germs under a sanitiser?
Now the ridiculously cluttered football calendar has partly decluttered with the booting of the European Championships into 2021, there is surely room for European leagues to play out to a conclusion when games eventually resume.
If that is in the players’ usual peak holiday period and we are still finalising the current campaign – play-offs, FA Cup final, European competitions climax and all – in September, so be it.
A shortish close season, which is all that would be needed after the long break we are entering, might in that case see 2020-21 ready for lift-off in mid-autumn, with an early conclusion built in to accommodate the uniquely crammed international summer that follows next year.
All this might mean an abridged club programme next season. Ok, no problem…..have a 19-game Premier League campaign and 23 in the EFL (each side to play all the others once) or maybe 25 and 30 matches respectively if time allows. Consider having fewer promotion and relegation places, too.
Yes, there would be an imbalance and it’s not League football as we know it. But it’s not life as we know it either.
The politicians tell us we’re on a sort of war footing, so the game, like everything else, will have to suck it up and improvise when we emerge on the other side.
This is the biggest obstacle to sport since Hitler saw to it that our League programme was cancelled after only three games – soon after a goal by Scotsman Gerry McAloon failed to stave off a 2-1 defeat for Wolves at Blackpool – in September, 1939.
Football will emerge from this misery but it needs to be fair to those, Wolves included, who have built highly promising platforms these last seven months. The prizes they have been aiming for and still are, can’t just be snatched away. And Liverpool, obviously, should be allowed to savour their long lap of honour.
Similarly, those like West Ham, whose struggles have left them just above the relegation trapdoor, must not be handed easy ‘get out of trouble’ passes. Deep down, we trust even their vice-chairman realises as much.